The Cowboy Diplomacy Myth of George W. Bush
June 10: President Bush walks to a news conference with European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso, Janez Jansa, prime minister of the European Union, and their security detail at Brdo Castle, Slovenia.
The young anarchists, middle-aged peace activists and established left-wing politicians here have at least one thing in common: none bothered to keep a six-year tradition alive by organizing a protest against President Bush’s arrival here Tuesday.It would appear the stamina of the Bush-haters has mostly run its course, given that he is serving out the twilight of his presidency; or....could it just be that Europe is finally coming around to its senses? After all, we have seen an increase in pro-Bush and pro-American leaders in the last few years, than anti; And President Bush, contrary to mainstream beliefs, has strengthened our place in the world and strengthened our alliances. It would seem that this is because the cowboy diplomat is also a multilateralist one at that:
“Bush is not even popular in the role of the enemy anymore,” wrote Der Tagesspiegel newspaper.
As in many other parts of Europe, Mr. Bush was a popular villain here even before the Iraq invasion, in part because of his steadfast rejection of the Kyoto Protocol limits on greenhouse-gas emissions. His visits to Germany have reliably drawn thousands into the streets to denounce him and his policies, beginning with his first visit to Berlin in May 2002.
Mr. Bush came under early fire after announcing that the U.S. would reject the Kyoto Protocol. Of course, the U.S. had never ratified Kyoto, and the Clinton Administration had refused even to submit it for a vote. In 1997, the Senate voted 95-0 not to endorse any climate change pact that didn't include China, India and other developing countries, as Kyoto didn't. Voting "aye" were Ted Kennedy, John Kerry and Harry Reid, among other noted unilateralists.Former Clinton official and author of The Superpower Myth, The Use and Misuse of American Might, Nancy Soderberg, acknowledges the diplomacy of the Bush Administration, even as she wants to deny them full credit and rationalize it for her own partisan piece of mind.
Then came September 11 and the war in Afghanistan, which the U.S. continues to wage under a NATO flag. Unfortunately -- and despite the honorable exceptions of Britain, Canada and Holland -- few of America's allies in the theater are willing to commit more troops, much less put them in harm's way.
Iraq is where the unilateral myth settled into media concrete. But in fact, in 2002 President Bush bucked the advice of his more hawkish advisers and agreed to take Tony Blair's advice and seek another U.N. Resolution -- was it the 16th or 17th? -- against Saddam Hussein. Resolution 1441 passed 15-0. True, the Administration failed to obtain a second resolution, not least because the French reneged on private assurances that it would agree to a second resolution if America obtained the first. But who was being unilateral there? As it was, the "coalition of the willing" that liberated Iraq included, besides the U.S. contingent, some 60,000 troops from 39 countries, who have operated under a U.N. resolution blessing their presence.
The Bush Administration has since become all too multilateralist, even -- or especially -- regarding the "axis of evil." On North Korea, the Administration adhered strictly to the six party formula. Oddly, the same critics who decry "unilateralism" would prefer that the U.S. negotiate with Pyongyang directly -- which is to say, unilaterally -- and do without the help currently being offered by Tokyo, Beijing, Seoul and Moscow.
As for Iran, following revelations in 2002 that Iran had secretly pursued an illegal nuclear program for 15 years, Mr. Bush agreed to hand over the diplomacy to Germany, Britain and France, the so-called E3. Their efforts failed. So the Administration agreed to negotiate directly with Iran provided the mullahs suspend their uranium enrichment program. The Iranians refused.
Next the Administration succeeded in turning the matter over to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), which has been seeking answers about Tehran's nuclear file for five years. The IAEA's questions have yet to be fully answered. In 2006, the U.N. Security Council set a deadline for Iran to suspend enrichment. The deadline was flouted. The Security Council has since agreed to three weak resolutions sanctioning Iran. Even as his days in office dwindle, Mr. Bush has adhered to this failing multilateral diplomacy.
Shall we go on? For the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the Administration arranged the so-called "road map," which is overseen by the "Quartet" of the U.S., Russia, the U.N., and the European Union. In Lebanon, the Administration worked closely with none other than France's Jacques Chirac to force the withdrawal of Syrian troops in 2005. With Russia, Mr. Bush welcomed its bid to join the World Trade Organization and has rebuffed suggestions -- including from Mr. McCain in his speech Wednesday -- that it be expelled from the G-8.
Mohamed ElBaradei owes his third term as head of the IAEA to the Administration, never mind that he all but openly campaigned for John Kerry in the 2004 election. On Darfur, the Administration has repeatedly deferred to the African Union and a pair of U.N. Secretary-Generals. Even after gathering evidence of secret Sudanese bombing runs in Darfur last year, Mr. Bush bowed to a special plea by the U.N.'s Ban Ki-moon to give diplomacy more time. The killings have continued. On global warming, the Administration has sought a compact with Australia, India and China to develop more carbon-neutral technologies.
Meanwhile, for all those lefties who whine about world opinion and how right after 9/11, the world was our friend, then somehow George W. Bush squandered all the fuzzy-feelings and made the world hate us: Please get a grip. From Matthew Kaminski at WSJ:
Bush Leaves a Robust Atlantic Alliance, After AllBy MATTHEW KAMINSKI
June 10, 2008; Page A17
George W. Bush's five-country farewell tour of Europe this week has Pavlov's pundits barking. In Britain's Guardian newspaper, Timothy Garton Ash distills the conventional wisdom that "so much of the [post-9/11] dust-up [with Europe] had to do with Bush himself: his unilateralism, his obsession with Iraq, his cowboy style, his incompetence." Not since Ronald Reagan has America had a less "European" president.
Such bad press plays into the election-year narrative of friends lost and alliances tarnished in the Bush era. So how's this for an inconvenient truth: This American president will bequeath his successor an alliance with Europe as robust and healthy as at any time in the post-Cold War period.
Pro-American governments are in charge in Paris, a first since 1945, as well as every other major European capital (London, Berlin, Warsaw, Rome) except Madrid. On Russia and China, on terrorism, rogue states and the spread of weapons of mass destruction, Europe and America share the strategic diagnosis, if not wholly the cure. A revived NATO leads missions in Afghanistan and the Balkans.
To be sure, Europe hasn't fallen in love with hard power, and Washington didn't sign up for unfettered multilateralism. The improved outlook in Iraq, and the Bush administration's decision to lay off Iran, defused two potential flashpoints late in its term. Even so, recent years have seen a Euro-American rapprochement take hold that silenced shrill predictions of "divorce" or worse in the wake of the Iraq war.
"Trans-Atlantic relations are rather good at the moment," says a senior European Union foreign policy adviser who requests anonymity and is not inclined to Panglossian views of the alliance. "Better than ever," adds another, Alar Olljum, who runs the in-house think tank for the European Commission.
Europeans tend to find explanations in altered American behavior. Here "Bush One" is pitted against "Bush Two": the first term of unilateralism and Iraq and the second of kinder, gentler diplomacy. Condoleezza Rice kicked off the charm offensive with a speech in Paris in early 2005 calling for a fresh start. Europe and America, she said, must together seize "a historic opportunity to shape a global balance of power that favors freedom." Robert Gates replaced the European bête noire Don Rumsfeld at the Pentagon.
Yet the Bush policy on NATO, the Mideast or other big issues didn't change significantly from the first to second terms. Europe itself did.
First came a political shift. Anti-Americanism, while a potent cultural and social phenomenon, turned out to be an electoral loser. Its most prominent European practitioners, Germany's Gerhard Schröder and France's Jacques Chirac, were replaced by politicians friendly to the U.S. such as Angela Merkel and Nicolas Sarkozy.
These two were different – let's say more "American" – in other important respects as well. Ms. Merkel isn't only the first woman chancellor, but the first German leader from the old communist East; her moral outlook was shaped by first-hand experience of Soviet totalitarianism. Mr. Sarkozy is the first French leader born after the liberation of Paris, to parents of Jewish and Hungarian stock no less. He doesn't carry Gaullist hang-ups about American power and France's shame about being occupied and then liberated by the allies during World War II.
In his first year, Mr. Sarkozy has pushed for a vibrant NATO and close ties with America – all in the name of strengthening Europe and France. Next year, he plans to bring France back into NATO's military wing more than four decades after Charles de Gaulle wrenched it out. His positive spin on trans-Atlantic relations contrasts with Mr. Chirac's reflexive efforts to check the U.S. at any turn. Mr. Bush has, like Bill Clinton before him, proved a staunch supporter of NATO. In response to the Sarkozy initiative, the administration dropped its skepticism about a common European defense and foreign policy, and backed efforts to get EU countries to pull their military weight. The U.S. has discovered that it needs help in the Balkans, Afghanistan and Iraq anyway it can get it.
Another quiet change since the Iraq war has been a trans-Atlantic convergence of outlooks. In their most recent security strategies, both France and the U.K. highlighted in gloomy terms the threat of terrorism and WMD. Differences remain on proper responses, but the leading Western powers are getting closer.
Finally, Europeans caught a strain of realism. Ironically, the emergence of "a multipolar world" – that great Gaullist dream – was what sobered the Continent's elites about their own relative weakness, and led them back to America. With the rise of non-American powers, Europe was supposed to push its unique brand of multilateralism. But two of the emerging powers, Russia and China, are authoritarian regimes with little time for Europe's utopian model of "permanent peace." The third, India, shows no interest in being allied with an EU saddled with low birth and growth rates.
Europe couldn't find its place in this world. Except, that is, as a partner to the West's leading democracy, the United States. Suddenly gone are the loudly voiced European anxieties going back to the Clinton presidency about an unwieldy "hyperpower." In their place come paeans to shared democratic values, a long common history and the world's by far most lucrative commercial partnership.
Barack Obama or John McCain can build on these foundations next year. Whoever takes over will also inherit from Mr. Bush the unresolved problems of Iran's nuclear bomb program, Afghanistan's fragile state, and an aggressive Russia – just for starters. The next president will look to Europe for help. So we'll soon see how much of a disconnect really exists between European rhetoric and political will.
Will Germany boost its support for the Afghan mission and prove willing to face down Russia over further eastward NATO enlargement? Will the EU unite around a muscular approach toward Iran (assuming America discovers its own muscle)? How much will France resent America's push to embrace Turkey as part of the West? What happens if al Qaeda strikes again?
These questions, once answered, are going to shape the post-Bush trans-Atlantic alliance. If things go wobbly again, the blame may not as easily be laid at America's feet as in the Bush years. Europe could even come to miss its convenient Texan bogeyman.
May the next U.S. President carry on a tradition of strong-arm cowboy diplomacy.